Adivasi Jan Van Adhikar Manch (AJVAM)

Adivasi Jan Van Adhikar Manch (AJVAM) is an indigenous Adivasi people's forest rights network alliance, founded in 2007 in Chhattisgarh and led by Adivasis themselves for Adivasi forest communities' common activity for their forest rights to influence the decisions, which affect their life.

AJVAM consists currently of 13 organisations who gather diverse Adivasi and marginalised forest communities from 300 villages spread in 12 districts of Chhattisgarh to commonly secure their dignity and community control over land, water, forest and minerals and to capacitate communities to protect life, biodiversity, environment and their culture adapted to these.

Indigenous Adivasi forest communities and their sustainable forest life in India are under severe threat of becoming displaced by unsustainable industrial and commercial measures.

During India's independence more than 30 million Adivasis have been displaced by the development projects.

The majority of Adivasi forest dwellers who are threatened by displacement are women.

Their sustainable forest life is the least overconsuming, producing the least carbon or other emissions. Still they get unjustly displaced from their sustainable life, and ironically even in the name of poverty reduction, environmental protection and climate change mitigation - since these are currently more manageable excuses for continuing people's displacement and its financing of for the industrial and commercial interests.

India's Tribal Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA) however recognises the rights of these forest communities to live in the forests and to use them as they have traditionally done and to initiate the determination of their rights to their sustainable forest life.

Although the Act's implementation has continued already for more than 4 years, even the government of India itself has also recognised that the Act has not yet been duly and efficiently implemented. There is thus a need to continue the work to secure the due implementation of the forest rights.

AJVAM has mobilised Adivasi communities to map how they have traditionally used their areas and to claim accordingly under the FRA their legal user-rights over such areas.

AJVAM supports the opportunities of Adivasis to legally register, validate, protect and strengthen their rights to forest as their home, source of subsistence and as their environment under the FRA and to guard that these rights get duly implemented.

AJVAM works to revive traditional collective and community forest rights so that the Adivasis of the forest communities, their rights and their sustainable life can not be displaced by mining and forest policies or commercial industries without the communities' free informed consent.

AJVAM campaigns also against the state's tendency to reject without adequate reasons the land title claims of Adivasi families and to issue up entitlements for less amount of land than what have been actually used and claimed by them.

AJVAM builds Adivasi communities' awareness on their forest rights providing training, research and people centred advocacy.

Thousands of Adivasis have also participated to map, document and file their forest rights claims in their communities with the support of the project for the claims process, its surveys and trainings.

Communities' growing awareness and mobilisation has led to concrete actions over the claims on forest rights to protect their sustainable life and environment.

AJVAM has organised with the communities state-level mass-meetings, forest rights workshops, advocacy or media events and demonstrations to which also thousands of Adivasis from 12 areas of the state have participated.

They have campaigned to secure due legal implementation of Adivasi forest rights and to protect Adivasis from the threat of getting displaced by unsustainable commercial or industrial projects.

The most directly targeted beneficiaries live in 300 indigenous communities in project's intervention areas - in 25 villages in each of the 12 districts where the project is active. 150 000 community members can be reached through the direct AJVAM efforts.

Usually the majority of people living in such Adivasi forest villages are women. Interested villagers get trained also to further train others in their communities.

In the AJVAM work area 90% of the people of 225 villages have filled individual title and 50% people have received titles.

The direct beneficiaries are the Adivasis and traditional forest communities, which the project has supported on registering and implementing their rights and to respect the dignity and culture of these communities and their forest life.

About 17000 forest dwellers have directly benefitted from getting their forest rights registered in their villages with the support of 9 AJVAM organisations, which work under wider cooperation for forest rights validation and registration.

In Chhattisgarh altogether around 215 000 families have got some forest rights - but still more than 4 million Adivasis and traditional forest dwellers are to get their rights to the forest area under the FRA .

The government of Chhattisgarh however essentially restricts the amount of those forest dwellers who should and could legally benefit from the Act.

To build awareness of the communities is most crucial in the villages who are under direct threat of becoming displaced or violated by expansion of mining, forest industry or sanctuaries.

AJVAM trains the communities and mobilises Adivasis to study and campaign on mining and forest policies and on FRA implementation of community rights to land, forest, water and their biodiversity, to minor forest produce and to environmental protection to prevent the on-going displacement and violations.

Such Adivasis whom India considers officially as "Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups" like Baigas, Pahadi Korbas, Kamars and Birhors need particular protection to get their legal rights secured. In addition to them AJVAM supports also Gond, Korba, Oraon, Halba, Dhoba, Kanwar and Korkus tribes.

State's cultural and Tribal policy has problems which AJAM has raised to debate to built wider understanding on sustainable Adivasi life practices, culture, education and on Adivasi ways of understanding the justice and environment. Chhattisgarh has 40 different tribal peoples and cultures but still it does not have policy to duly address the spesific nature of their ethnicity and culture. State officiers and politicians misuse the funds allocated for tribal and cultural aims in a way which divides tribals and undermines their culture by artificial presentations.

In the absence of incorporation of views of community the policies are not able to bring significant changes in terms of protection and promotion of Adivasi culture or values.

Only through saving the sustainable Adivasi forest life and culture one can save the life of land, forest and water to which that Adivasi forest life and culture have been adapted as integral to it.

AJVAM has thus demanded also an immediate halt to eviction of people from forest area and to the so-called ‘relocation’ from tiger-reserve areas

AJVAM works to protect forest and bio-diversity regeneration by community forests and review of Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) policies to secure the collectors' control of price/trade.

Thousands of Adivasis who work with biodiversity and forest produce - particularly the women - participate to make NTFP survey, plantation and biodiversity registers in 300 intervention villages.

AJVAM works also to advance world's awareness on sustainable Adivasi life and our options to learn sustainable life from Adivasi forest communities.

We need to build such dialogue between Adivasis and modern society which can empower sustainable Adivasi ways to use and understad land, forest and water, Earth's life and justice - and to develop thus also cultural exchange on values of Adivasi forest life & its autonomy.

AJVAM convener Indu Netam (photo on the right side) has visited also Finland and Europe to speak about the life of Adivasi communities.

Emmaus Aurinkotehdas from Finland has supported AJVAM in its above-mentioned aims and activities.

Different Adivasi tribes and communities have a wide cultural heritage of beautiful songs and dances.

Adivasis try to keep their culture alive even though the globalised commercial culture tends to undermine the heritages.

Find here more photos of the culture of the Adivasi communities where AJVAM works.